While AT&T hasn’t offered unlimited data wireless plans for several years, it still has customers who have been grandfathered into those plans. Beginning in February, however, they’ll be charged $5 more — $35 instead of $30 — per month to keep those plans.
AT&T announced the price change this week, noting that it is the first such increase in seven years. It added that customers who choose to cancel their services because of the increase will not be charged any early termination fee as long as they canceled within 60 days of the price increase.
The unlimited data plan is currently available only to subscribers who had such service on or before October 31, 2009, and is offered only for as long as customers continue to use the same smartphones they had at the time. Once customers change either their phones or their plans, the unlimited data offering ends.
Unlimited Data Plans on the Way Out
Unlimited data plans have become increasingly hard to find — or more expensive — in recent years. For example, Verizon Wireless, which has grandfathered support for unlimited data plans since 2011, last month raised the price of that service by $20 per month.
Both Sprint and T-Mobile have also recently increased prices for customers who continue to hold onto unlimited data plans. T-Mobile plans went from $30 to $45 per month in November, while Sprint’s prices rose by $10 per month in September.
While continuing to offer unlimited data plans in some circumstances, carriers have also imposed other limits on holdout customers. Sprint, T-Mobile and AT&T have enacted various throttling policies that slow connection speeds for some unlimited data customers after they’ve reached certain data thresholds. However, AT&T was slapped with $100 million in fines for that practice by the Federal Trade Commission in June for “failing to sufficiently inform customers” about data speed limits.
Rising Network Demands
AT&T said it is imposing the $5 price increase in part because of “significant investments” it has made to accommodate rising network traffic demands. The company said it has also increased average speeds on its network as consumer demands have grown.
“Consumers and businesses are using mobile data at record levels and the trend is expected to continue,” the company said in a statement.
Customers who continue with their existing unlimited data plans will also be subject to throttling of network speeds if they exceed 22 GB of data during any one billing cycle and “are in a congested area,” AT&T said.
We asked AT&T how many customers might be affected by the coming price hike, but a spokesperson told us that the company doesn’t “break out customer numbers by their respective plans.”